Antidote for a Servaholic

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Every once in a while I need to stop and take an upside-down theological exam. I’m not talking about a written checklist or statement of faith. I mean the sort of life evaluation in which I check my principles by my practice. How does my lifestyle betray what I truly believe?

If I am brutally honest with myself, I have to admit that I’m a servaholic. I find my kudos in working hard in service to God. I eat, sleep, work, and pray the Kingdom, finding it difficult to rest until it has come on earth as it is in Heaven. Who would fault me for that? And yet when I examine the assumptions that drive much of what I do, I see how very off I am in my understanding of what God wants of me.

I feel more comfortable waiting tables at the party than chilling out with the guests.

I am surprised to discover it of myself, but I am the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son. I don’t resent all those younger brothers who have taken God for granted and have blown their time and resources on pursuing worldly pleasure. I know well enough that those pleasures would never satisfy me and I am delighted when they come back to the Father whom I love and serve.

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.
Luke 15:28-29

The older brother and I share a different problem. We are afflicted with a faulty perception of ourselves and of the Father whom we serve. Without realizing it, we keep turning ourselves into His slaves instead of His sons. We singlehandedly shoulder the burden of all that needs to be done for Him, unintentionally stiff-arming Him from sharing it with us. We wear ourselves out doing for Him what He never intended us to carry alone. No wonder His yoke seems demanding and His burden anything but light.

I run into this the most when I try to stop and have fun. I can’t. I don’t know how to. I know how to work. I have learned how to weep with those who weep. But in a world of unmitigated suffering and unfinished tasks, I am at a loss when it comes time to party with those who rejoice.

As a slave I may surrender my body,
but as a son I surrender my heart.

So when my Father invites me in to celebrate with Him, I balk outside the party. Like Martha, I feel more comfortable waiting tables at the party than chilling out with the guests. But that is not where He is content to leave me.

” ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”
Luke 15:31-32

God doesn’t want me as His slave. That’s not why He adopted me. What pleases Him is not my productivity nor my righteous rule-keeping. It is my sharing with Him all that He has and all that He is. He is not a rigid task-master, smiling only after the full harvest of the kingdom has been brought in. He is my Father, inviting me to run into His arms and be a part of His happiness just as all the younger brothers are.

Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “”Abba”, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.

…But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?
Galatians 4:6-9

A part of me still hesitates. What if I get so relaxed in simply enjoying my Father’s party that I become lazy and presumptuous? Don’t I need some controls to keep me on task in the work He has given me to do?

But when I examine my hang-ups a little closer, I realize that they all have to do with control. As a slave I may surrender my body, but as a son I will have to surrender my heart. God is raising the stakes on our relationship. Can I trust His Spirit to govern me from within or will I still insist on my own rigid self-management?

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Galatians 3:3

O foolish child that I am! Why would I want to remain in this exhausting, never-ending servitude? Why would I resist the invitation to come in and enjoy the good things my Father wants to share with me?

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. … When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.
Luke 15:22-25

So what is the prescription for a recovering servaholic? I think I need to observe 40 days of anti-Lent, a season in which I practice a daily dose of pleasure. The point is not to try to have fun apart from the Father, a mistake which both younger and older brothers tend to make. Rather I want to daily set aside time, resources, and space to enjoy something with God.

God liberates His servaholic child
with an invitation to celebration.

Good-looking clothes. Delicious food. Beautiful music. Frivolous dancing. These are the things that the Father prescribed for both of his wayward sons.

Frolics in the sunshine. Lazy moments of lying around. Extra cream in my coffee. Reading a book just for the fun of it. This is the sort of celebration that He is inviting me into, as well.

Who knew pleasure could be a spiritual discipline?

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20 thoughts on “Antidote for a Servaholic”

    1. It’s certainly a scary venture whenever we undertake honest, self-examination. But like you say, I think it opens us up to be further liberated by God’s Spirit. That’s what makes me risk it again: I have too much to gain not to.

  1. There is a time to weep and a time to dance. I think we learn this as we get older and wiser. You must be getting wiser then Tiffany!x

  2. As we continue our journey into heavenly realms it is very easy to begin differentiating between our natural, visible, temporal life and our spiritual, invisible, eternal life. We tend to view our lives as though they were two separate and distinct entities, with a different “Law” governing each one. This has created disparities which effectually weaken the whole man and is one of the significant reasons for our lack of growing, developing, and maturing in our Christian experience.

    We face each day with challenges that we respond to, or react to, according to the measure and quality of His life that is maintained through His abiding presence. In one situation we manifest the earthly and in others we express the heavenly. What we are doing, in essence, is according to a condition that James refers to in his writings as being double minded and unstable in all our ways. We have not been consistent in our walk of faith and find it very difficult to receive anything from the Lord. We proclaim that our faith is the faith of the Son of God in regard to our “spiritual Life,” and find tremendous difficulty exercising “His” faith in our everyday situations and activities. This ought not to be the prevailing testimony of our “Christianity.”

    It is my conviction that our problem is not so much a “flesh” problem as it is a problem of “Governance.” The flesh is always at war with the spirit but we sometimes forget that the battle is being waged for the right or authority to “govern” our lives. If we declare, “Jesus is Lord,” we must submit to his Lordship in all things. Jesus has been given all power/authority in both heaven and earth. If we submit to his authority and sovereignty in the “heavenly” things in our life and try to establish other authority or sovereignty in our “earthly” endeavors, we are destined for failure.

    In order for us to conduct and conclude our lives successfully, as Christians, we must do God’s will. The only way we can possibly do His will is to experience the kingdom of God in our daily lives and realize that we have His kingdom __ “within.” This is fulfilling the prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.” This may sound like an over-simplification of how we ought to live as Christians but it has been extremely difficult to maintain a working relationship with our Father in the same way scripture reveals Jesus’ relationship with his Father. All too often we defer to and are resigned to “giving up” instead of “pressing into.” One of the most helpful things we can realize is the fact that His Father is also, Our Father and “Thy Kingdom” is the Kingdom of the Father and His Son(s).”

    Practicing a cohesive and consistent expression of “Christ” is impossible without the Spirit of God having preeminence in all realms of our existence. It is “in Christ” that we are to live and move and have our being.

    The above paragraphs are from a recent writing concerning our becoming :”One New Man.” I really like your use of the account of the “Prodigal” and his older brother. We can also consider our “Older Brother” in his first act of “Service” when he was enjoying, (undoubtedly), the wedding party and turning the water into wine. We can rejoice in the knowledge that he was doing what he was seeing his Father doing and the “work” was actually his Father working through him. Jesus delights in doing His Father’s will __ even today!
    P.S. Sorry for the lengthy response __ trust it isn’t too presumptuous.

    1. Our problem is not so much a “flesh” problem as it is a problem of “Governance.”

      Practicing a cohesive and consistent expression of “Christ” is impossible without the Spirit of God having preeminence in all realms of our existence. It is “in Christ” that we are to live and move and have our being.

      What brilliant insights! You have captured and extended my point. And I love how you have tied the imagery of the brothers in the parable to the reality of our older brother, Christ. Now I need to go back and explore those connections further. Of course He is the model to look to for understanding how to relate to the Father, both in service and delight.

      For further reading on the dualist assumptions that you pointed out in that article, you may be interested in a few articles I wrote in that same vein.
      https://messytheology.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/fleshy-theology/
      https://messytheology.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/when-god-came-home/

  3. Gasp.

    Dare I?

    I am another one who has trouble with “fun.” How does one have “fun”?

    In Jan Karon’s Mitford books, her main character is a priest who has the same struggle. I totally identify.

    I am learning. Learning to take quiet moments of joy, guilt-free, and stop “shoulding” all over myself.

    I give myself permission to sew something pretty…just for me every now and then. (after all, I am clothed in righteousness. Shouldn’t my outer body show that?)

    I give myself permission to take a nap on a Sunday. (a day of rest, right? And His yoke is supposed to be easy.)

    I give myself permission to take some time to exercise so that my body may remain healthy so I can continue to work for Him.

    I join you in this everlasting conundrum.

  4. I suspect that many of us who are “spiritually minded” have to be reminded how to live on earth. And as much as we need to hear sermons about setting our affections on the things above, we also need sermons on how to enjoy the earth that God made below. His character is manifested here as well as there, and for now He has designed things in a way that we have physical senses that experience and enjoy Him here (and not there, yet).

    I have so much to learn from those who know how to have a good time here and now and do so as an outworking of worship. And I’m right there with you, giving myself begrudging permission to do things that I really shouldn’t even have to think about.

    1. Tiffany an old Baptist Evangelist used to say ” Be careful not to be so spiritually minded that you are no earthy good nor that you become so earthly minded you are no spiritually good.”

      1. Well said! The challenge is to hold the two together in the same “mind,” not letting go of either in our vision or everyday living. I’m still working on this.

    1. Ah, the voice of the one who got me started on this train of thinking! Thank you, Ursula, for being one of those godly examples of beauty and fun. What a joy to get to learn from you.

  5. On point as usual. When the heart is totally surrendered to Him for leadership in all we do, we can not miss out one bit, for all the things He has in store for us. We are going to have not only ‘balance diet ‘ but balance life style to the glory and honor of His name.

    1. Well said, Michael. It is good to be reminded of how He relates to every side of life and not accept an artificial separation of physical and spiritual. It is going to take a bit of undoing former assumptions, but somehow we have to retrain our minds to see Him in everything. Thanks for the reminder that even a balanced lifestyle can be an act of worship.

      1. Collette and Tiffany, your comments further humble and encourage me, though still having a felling of being wretched but with the only plea for Him to ‘take me as I am’.

  6. I can totally relate to this posting. So many of us are “servaholic” like Martha. I have many times prayed, Lord, help me to be like Mary and just sit at Your feet and rest in Your presence. God bless you, Tiffany!

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